Utah State outplayed Auburn in all but the final three minutes, but it wasn't enough in a game that'll go down as a colossal lost opportunity for the WAC also-rans. While the Aggies deserved to win this game, going up 38-28 late in the final quarter, they flashed their big-game inexperience when it mattered most. The defense went AWOL, and the special teams allowed a crucial onside kick conversion that preceded the winning drive.
The headline of the comeback, of course, is that Auburn's reign as the national champs essentially ended on this day. Although there's something to be said for perseverence, the 2011 Tigers won't win the SEC West, let alone appear in another BCS bowl game. They struggled on a physical level to contain a second-rate opponent, often getting shoved around by the Utah State offense. If you've never heard of Aggies QB Chuckie Keeton, there's good reason—he's a true freshman from Houston.
Auburn won a game it wasn't supposed to on Saturday. Other than moving a step closer to bowl-eligibility, though, the Tigers did little to show they're anything more than a middling SEC team in 2011.
By Matt Zemek
By Russ Mitchell
Follow me on Twitter @russmitchellcfb
We knew Auburn's offense would take time to gel. But after that upchuck of a game vs. the Aggies, it's hard to tell much, given Auburn's defense was so bad its offense barely got to play.
Utah State's offense controlled this game until the final 3:38, when they put the Tigers in a 38-28 hole. Unfortunately for the Aggies, the next time their offense touched the ball – two minutes later – they were down 42-38.
With fewer returning defensive starters (three) than any other SEC team, we expected the unit to struggle. But not STRUGGLE. The Aggies had more first downs (27-17), more total yards (448-364), more rushing yards (227-78), and held the ball for nearly two thirds of this game (Time of Possession 37:41 to 22:19).
Yes, this is a Utah State team that lost tight games to Texas A&M to start 2009, and Oklahoma last season. But they fought to get back into those games. At Auburn, they choked away a late 10 point lead.
If you're an Auburn fan right now, invest in some sleeping aids – you're going to lose sleep over this defense.
Teams are supposed to make the most improvement between games one and two. Y'all better hope that maxim's true...
Because coming to the plains next year is fifth year senior quarterback Chris Relf, the most underrated player in the SEC - senior running back Vic Ballard, and seven more returning starters on offense.
Mr. Ballard is a baaaaaaaaaad man.
Better go stock up on that ambien.
By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee
"Auburn misses Cam Newton badly."
Get ready to hear that phrase a lot this week, even though, at least in Auburn's season opener, it wasn't completely accurate. Auburn does, on the other hand, miss the rest of the players that fell off of the roster following the 2010 National Championship.
Auburn came into the game vs. Utah State wanting to find answers to a lot of offseason questions. Who will replace Newton and Nick Fairley? Will the talent on the roster mature quickly? How will the offensive line come together? Will Barrett Trotter be a functional quarterback for Gus Malzahn's offense?
After the first game, the Tigers still have more questions than answers.
Auburn did learn a few things about itself that it can use in the future. For starters, we know that, just like last season, this Tiger team is capable of getting off the deck and pulling out come-from-behind victories. Granted, a comeback against Utah State at home in Week 1 is just a bit different than doing it on the road against Alabama during the final week of the regular season to preserve a shot at the national title. But still, it's a positive to build on (one of few).
One of the biggest questions was at quarterback, and Trotter actually looked good. The junior completed 17-of-23 passes for 261 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions; which will do nicely at any level. He just didn't get much help from anybody else.
Auburn is going to be the punchline this week, and for good reason. A low-level WAC team should not come to the SEC and give any team a game - not even Vanderbilt.
The Tigers looked out-manned by the Aggies at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, which is something that should concern the coaching staff. This was Utah State, not Mississippi State. When the Bulldogs from Starkville visit the Plains next weekend, Auburn will have to re-ignite that fire, because right now, the Tigers don't look man enough to contend for the WAC title, much less the SEC.